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In search of a record-breaking eighth world championship, Hamilton trailed Verstappen by 14 points in the drivers’ standings heading into the weekend. However, after his stunning victory in Brazil, where Hamilton came from tenth on the grid to take victory, the momentum was firmly with the Mercedes driver. Overtaking was tricky on the Losail circuit and Hamilton made it count with a superb performance from lights-to-flag to take the race victory.
Verstappen escaped punishment after appearing to run Hamilton off the track in Brazil but wasn’t so lucky in Qatar and was hit with a five-place grid penalty after ignoring yellow flags during Saturday’s qualifying session. He limited the damage, however, coming home second with Fernando Alonso third, a first podium since 2014. Sergio Perez finished fourth in the second Red Bull with Esteban Ocon fifth for Alpine. Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin beat the Ferrari pair of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc with Lando Norris’ McLaren and the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel rounding off the top 10. Follow all the latest updates and analysis below:
F1 Qatar Grand Prix
Thrilling Formula 1 title race reaches Qatar Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton wins from pole position
Max Verstappen second after starting seventh following five-place grid penalty
Verstappen now leads drivers’ standings by eight points with two races remaining
Verstappen vows to ‘come back better and stronger’
17:55 , Ben Burrows
Verstappen had survived potential sanctions hanging over from Sao Paulo but was hit with a five-place grid penalty here, relegating him from second to seventh, for not sufficiently slowing under double-waved yellow flags in the closing stages of qualifying – the decision coming under two hours before the start of the race.
The Dutchman was fourth by the end of the first lap and second to his fellow title protagonist just five laps later.
That is where he stayed, at least setting the fastest lap to take an additional point ahead of the maiden Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in a fortnight.
“I knew I was going to get a penalty last night,” Verstappen said. “When I saw the result I was not shocked or surprised, you just focus, you just have to pass a few more cars than you would usually like.
“Quite early on in the race I saw that (winning) was not really on so I just did the best I could do to keep that gap.
“It is exciting, of course, I would like to make it a bigger gap but when you don’t have the pace it is impossible, we will just try to come back better and stronger.”
‘No time to celebrate’ for Hamilton
17:36 , Ben Burrows
Having also won the Brazilian Grand Prix last weekend and with two races remaining in the season – both back here in the Middle East with a debut appearance in Saudi Arabia followed by the return to Abu Dhabi – the most enthralling title fight in years looks set to go to the wire and Hamilton is keen to keep pushing.
“There is no time to celebrate, no time to rest, we just keep our heads down and keep racing,” Hamilton said. “This past three weeks have been so difficult for everyone with such big distances between the races.
“Of course the race was made a lot easier with the penalties that the guys received for the mistakes they made yesterday, that made it a lot more straightforward so it was about managing the gap at the front and keeping everything safe.
“I feel great, I feel in the best shape physically than I have been all year. The car is feeling better than ever and I feel positive going into the next couple of races. I feel they should be quite good for our car and I’m looking forward to the battle.”
Horner given official warning by FIA for earlier comments
17:02 , Dan Austin
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has been given an official warning by the FIA after being summoned to the stewards for a breach of the international sporting code.
Horner was reprimanded for his comments pre-race regarding Max Verstappen’s late grid penalty, saying: “It looks like a complete balls-up. They’ve got to have control of their marshals. There needs to be some grown-ups making grown-up decisions. The race director should have control of the circuit.”
Williams drivers both surprised by tyre punctures
16:59 , Dan Austin
George Russell and Nicholas Latifi in the Williams cars both suffered punctures to the front left tyre towards the end of the race after trying to make a one-stop strategy work.
“It was something that we spoke about prior to the race, that the front left was wearing so much,” Russell explained. “It was a bit of a surprise it came when it did though, but we weren’t in the fight for anything meaningful. A shame but we didn’t lose out on anything.”
Canadian Latifi concurred, saying: “No warning, so that was the confusing part for me. It was obviously a consideration but we thought we could manage it. I didn’t feel limited from that tyre and then it went a lap later.”
McLaren slipping behind in fight with Ferrari
16:50 , Dan Austin
After Daniel Ricciardo failed to score points for the third consecutive race, and Lando Norris dropped down to ninth due to a late puncture, McLaren are now 39.5 points behind Ferrari in the battle for third in the Constructors' Championship.
The teams former driver Jenson Button told Sky Sports F1 he thinks it will be “very difficult” for them to overhaul the Scuderia now.
“Their pace is there,” the 2009 world champion said. “Lando was quick today, not quite as much as Fernando but still fast. He said it wasn’t the team’s fault, but the ones who had punctures pushed the tyres too far.”
Driver ratings as Alonso impresses but Gasly and Ricciardo struggle
16:35 , Dan Austin
The big story at every Formula 1 Grand Prix these days is tug-of-war between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the top of the championship, but there are 18 other drivers out there and the vast majority of them were involved in more eventful races today than the two title rivals.
Take a look at our full, in-depth driver ratings below where all 20 men are given a thorough assessment.
Horner praises Verstappen’s Qatar recovery
16:32 , Dan Austin
Horner has also been praising championship leader Max Verstappen after the Red Bull man took second-place despite starting seventh at Losail. “Max’s recovery today, his first lap was stunning,” Horner told Sky Sports F1. “Mercedes had a quicker car but we were able to come after them a bit. His first few corners were sensational.”
“We’re down to I think five points in the constructors’, and eight ahead in the drivers’. So we’re going to go home, work hard and try to improve the car as much as we can for the new track to come.”
Christian Horner apologises and makes Wolff jibe
16:31 , Dan Austin
Christian Horner has apologised on Sky Sports F1 after being summoned by the stewards for breaking the international sporting code in relation to TV comments he made about marshals earlier today, but also took aim at Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff over his behaviour.
“I’d like to make it clear that marshals and volunteers do a wonderful job, and my frustrations I voiced earlier are not with an individual marshal but with the situation and the inconsistency,” he said. “If any offence was caused I apologise for that. It’s with the stewards now.”
When asked about how he is handling the pressure by Damon Hill, Horner responded by referencing the moment in Brazil when Wolff pointed down the camera lens and celebrated Hamilton’s overtake, saying: “I think we’ve been dealing well with our emotions, I don’t swear and point at cameras, but if I think you’re being an arse I’ll tell you you’re being an arse.”
Alonso proud of “deserved” first podium in seven years
16:24 , Dan Austin
Fernando Alonso has been telling Sky Sports F1 about what he feels is a “deserved” first podium since Hungary in 2014.
“It was great, it was fun. I think Turn 2 with Gasly was very important to have a clean race after that, and then to have a clean race after that.
“Obviously the win is the win, so [a podium] cannot rank too high. But this is like... Finally! We have been close before but I was wondering if I could ever get a podium again in my career, and next year who knows what could happen?
“There is still a long way to go for us, but it would be great to be fighting [with Hamilton and Verstappen next year]. I am glad to share the podium with them, in the last few years there have been some strange podiums because of things which happen in the race, but today we deserved it.”
Verstappen says penalty was no surprise in jibe at FIA
16:14 , Dan Austin
Asked about his reaction to receiving the grid penalty pre-race for ignoring yellow flags in qualifying, Max Verstappen told Sky Sports F1: “No surprises there, I knew last night that I never get presents from them [the FIA]. We just need to try and says focused, and as we’ve seen here anything can happen.”
On the controversial remarks made by Christian Horner and Toto Wolff this week, and the fallout from the clash with Lewis Hamilton in Interlagos, the 24-year-old said that he tries to ignore everything other than driving.
“Racing is not complicated,” he said. “It has a brake pedal, a throttle, and a steering wheel. Anything else going on around it I don’t pay attention to.”
Hamilton revelling in the pressure of title fight
16:05 , Dan Austin
Lewis Hamilton says he is revelling in the pressure of his battle with Max Verstappen for the championship title.
“The last two weeks have been just amazing, but there’s no time for celebrations. I’ll be back in training tomorrow morning and working hard. [Red Bull] are obviously still very fast, so we still have our work cut out.
“I’m loving it. I love the close battle and the pressure, and the demands it puts on us. The next two races we need an even better performance, so we’ll be bringing out AAA performance.”
Christian Horner summoned to stewards
16:03 , Dan Austin
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has been summoned to the stewards at Losail for an alleged breach of the sporting code.
More details as we have them.
Toto Wolff says Red Bull woke up Hamilton’s “lion” in title fight
16:00 , Dan Austin
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has been talking about Lewis Hamilton’s victory and his chances of winning the F1 title.
“It’s funny, because the initial feeling is bittersweet, because both championships matter,” he told Damon Hill on Sky Sports F1 It’s great for Lewis [in the Drivers’ Championship], and the car seems really fast. That’s a great indication for what is to come in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Saudi should be a good track for us. We will get our spicy equipment out for that and see what we can do. We need Valtteri up there too.
“[Lewis] is totally in the zone. The lion has been woken up. They [Red Bull] woke the lion at Interlagos last week.”
On the pressure of the first real fight Mercedes have endured with a rival time in the turbo-hybrid era, he added: “I really enjoy the ride because it’s such fun when it’s so tough, that’s exactly why we’re in this sport.”
How the championship battle looks after Hamilton’s Qatar win
15:54 , Dan Austin
The upshot of today’s inaugural Qatar Grand Prix is that Max Verstappen leads the Drivers’ Championship by just eight points with two races remaining. The single point he earned by taking the fastest lap could be crucial once the chequered flag waves in Abu Dhabi on 12 December.
In the Constructors’ Championship, meanwhile, Mercedes have the advantage by five points, despite Valtteri Bottas’ retirement.
Alonso delighted with first podium in seven years
15:42 , Dan Austin
Fernando Alonso is on the podium for the first time since Budapest in 2014 and was in a joyous mood when speaking to Sky Sports F1.
The 40-year-old beamed:“Seven years but finally we got it! We have been close before but not enough. Honestly I thought I could lead after lap 1 with the soft tyre! We planned one-stop from the beginning, but never knew how bad the wear was. The race was well-executed, the team was great and the reliability of the car was superb.
“I was waiting so long for this, so I’m happy.”
Verstappen anticipating tight battle in final two races
15:41 , Dan Austin
Max Verstappen talked up the intensity of the title fight when he told Sky Sports F1: “I know it’s going to be difficult to the end but that’s quite nice, I enjoy it. This track is enjoyable to drive and the degradation was a challenge, so it’s cool. I feel good, it’s going to be a tight battle to the end.”
Hamilton feels “fitter than ever” in title fight
15:38 , Dan Austin
Lewis Hamilton says he feels like he and his Mercedes car are in peak condition as the season reaches its end.
“It was pretty straightforward, it was lonely out front,” he told former team-mate Jenson Button on Sky Sports F1. “I enjoy those races where you’re battling through but we just needed the points today. I’m just grateful for those points. To be at this point of the year with two back-to-back wins is special. It feels good, I’m really happy with the car and feel fitter than ever.”
Lewis Hamilton wins first ever F1 Qatar Grand Prix!
15:30 , Dan Austin
Lewis Hamilton has won the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix at Losail!
Max Verstappen is second, his lead cut down to eight points.
Fernando Alonso is third and on the podium for Alpine for the first time since he was with Ferrari in 2014.
Final lap with virtual safety car still out
15:29 , Dan Austin
LAP 57/57: The VSC is only just ending, which means that Sergio Perez will have no chance of catching and overtaking Fernando Alonso!
Lewis Hamilton has a lead of 31s and will win the race.
Virtual safety car as Latifi retires!
15:26 , Dan Austin
LAP 55/57: Late in the race we have a virtual safety car after Nicholas Latifi parked his Williams on a recover road.
Max Verstappen is into the pits for soft tyres which should guarantee him fastest lap.
Alonso vs Perez heating up
15:23 , Dan Austin
LAP 53/57: With five laps remaining Sergio Perez is just over nine seconds behind Fernando Alonso as he tries to make his way back into the podium positions.
Alonso is one-stopping and has been on his hard tyres for a very long time, just like George Russell was, and is very much at risk of a puncture here.
Another puncture for Williams
15:22 , Dan Austin
LAP 52/57: The drivers attempting the one-stop are struggling to make the tyres last here and Nicholas Latifi now has a puncture for Williams.
He says the tyres “felt fine, no vibrations” until the front left suddenly began to delaminate on the kerb.
15:21 , Dan Austin
LAP 51/57: Valtteri Bottas is back in the pits and is retiring the car.
He came back out in 14th following his puncture and made no progress, with the underbody of his Mercedes damaged by the kerbs and the broken front-wing he suffered too.
Lando Norris in the pits and Russell has a puncture
15:20 , Dan Austin
LAP 50/57: Lando Norris is in for a surprise stop for McLaren, dropping to 11th to take a new set of medium tyres. The team must have been worried about a puncture.
Meanwhile, George Russell has a puncture and is limping home to the pits.
Perez passes Ocon despite battle
15:16 , Dan Austin
LAP 48/57: Esteban Ocon does his best to hold off Sergio Perez, falling behind into Turn 1 before pushing the Red Bull wide into Turn 3 and Turn 4 but ultimately yielding to the Mexican’s superior traction.
Perez is now fifth, with Lando Norris next up and Fernando Alonso 16s further down the road.
Alonso wants Ocon to “defend like a lion"
15:14 , Dan Austin
LAP 47/57: Fernando Alonso has been on the Alpine team radio to instruct his race engineer to tell Esteban Ocon to “defend like a lion” against the on-coming Sergio Perez as he hunts down Alonso’s podium position.
The Mexican is up to sixth past Lance Stroll, and is now just over a second behind Ocon.
The gap from Alonso to Perez is around 17s. “We must defend as much as we can against Perez. Elbows out,” Ocon’s engineer tells him.
Perez sets fastest lap
15:11 , Dan Austin
LAP 45/57: Sergio Perez has set the fastest lap of the race on those fresh mediums, which takes a point away from Hamilton provisionally and sets him up well for the overtaking he will have to do to make it back up to P3.
Perez has more overtaking to do
15:09 , Dan Austin
LAP 43/57: Sergio Perez has even more overtaking to do at Losail after that pit stop, which brought him back out on to the circuit in seventh place.
The Mexican has Lance Stroll, Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso to pass if he wants to make it onto the podium.
Hamilton follows with second pit stop
15:08 , Dan Austin
LAP 43/57: Hamilton covers off the danger by coming into the pits himself and taking a second set of the medium tyres, which will now see him through to the end of the race.
Sergio Perez was in too, meaning Fernando Alonso is now back up to third with Lando Norris fourth.
Verstappen into the pits
15:06 , Dan Austin
LAP 42/57: Perhaps spooked by Bottas’ puncture, Max Verstappen is brought into the pits by Red Bull for a second pit stop onto another set of medium tyres. This will also allow him the chance to take the point for fastest lap back from Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton increasing the gap again
15:04 , Dan Austin
LAP 40/57: Not much action out on track right now with a gap of a few seconds separating most drivers out there, but Lewis Hamilton is putting his foot and has increased the gap to Max Verstappen back up to 8.9s as the Dutchman has to content with the backmarker traffic.
They have a whopping gap of just under a minute to Sergio Perez in third.
Bottas’ race ruined by tyre puncture
14:55 , Dan Austin
LAP 34/57: Valtteri Bottas has gone too long on his medium tyres and has a severe puncture which has taken him into the gravel trap at Turn 7 and damaged his front wing.
Bottas is into the pits and was passed by Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso on his long route back to the pits.
The Finn comes out in 14th and can’t do much to help Hamilton now.
Verstappen closing on Hamilton
14:53 , Dan Austin
LAP 33/57: The gap between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen was around 10s after both drivers took the pits for hard tyres, but with Hamilton having to overtake backmarkers and Verstappen finding consistent pace, the margin has now been reduced to 7s.
Perez overtakes Alonso after excellent battle
14:49 , Dan Austin
LAP 29/57: Sergio Perez is finally past fernando Alonso after a thrilling little battle.
The Mexican uses DRS to go around the outside into Turn 1 but Alonso keeps his foot in it and pushes the Red Bull to the limits of the track into Turn 2, before Perez sweeps back across to take the inside line for the third corner and finally makes it stick.
Superb driving from both men.
Leclerc disrupts Alonso and Perez fight
14:46 , Dan Austin
LAP 27/57: Charles Leclerc has yet to stop and both Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez try to overtake him simultaneously as they go three-wide into Turn 1. Leclerc locks up allowing Alonso to dive down the inside, but Perez is compromised and has to wait half a lap to follow Alonso through and move up to sixth.
That gives Alonso an advantage but it’s likely a stay of execution more than anything.
Alonso pits for hard tyres
14:42 , Dan Austin
LAP 24/57: Alpine pit Fernando Alonso to cover off Sergio Perez after his pass on Vettel, and the Spaniard comes back out in eighth place, with Daniel Ricciardo in ninth and Perez tenth.
The Mexican takes one more lap to dispatch the Australian and is now chasing down Alonso as he hunts a podium.
Bottas and Perez finally get moves done
14:40 , Dan Austin
LAP 23/57: Sergio Perez was stuck behind a wily-looking Sebastian Vettel for three laps but finally moves past the German and into 11th with the help of DRS.
Valtteri Bottas is up to fourth too after making a move on Lando Norris at the same corner.
Alonso driving very well
14:38 , Dan Austin
LAP 22/57: Fernando Alonso is doing a sterling job in the Alpine, setting personal best on soft tyres which have done 24 laps (including qualifying) and increasing the gap to McLaren’s Lando Norris behind him to just over 10s.
The Spaniard hasn’t been on the podium since 2013, but if can keep this pace up, may well manage it.
Perez follows into the pits
14:35 , Dan Austin
LAP 20/57: Sergio Perez is now into the pits and also onto the hard tyres, following precisely the same strategy as Verstappen and Hamilton. The Mexican comes out in 12th, in big traffic, behind the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. Seems like an odd call right now.
Mercedes are on the team radio to tell Valtteri Bottas that they expect Verstappen to stop again, which could mean the Finn sticks with a one-stop.
Hamilton into the pits
14:32 , Dan Austin
LAP 18/57: Hamilton is into the pits too with a safety-first approach taken by Mercedes.
The Briton had been on the radio to tell the team not to pit him “too early” when the tyres still felt comfortable, but this seems like the smart choice.
Hamilton comes out in first, with a 9.5s buffer.
Verstappen pits earlier than expected
14:31 , Dan Austin
LAP 18/57: Max Verstappen is into the pits and has switched onto the hard tyres,
The gap he had built up to Fernando Alonso means the Red Bull comes out still in second place.
How will Mercedes respond?
Bottas into fifth
14:30 , Dan Austin
LAP 17/57: Valtteri Bottas seems to have finally woken up and has passed Esteban Ocon to move into fifth.
The gap between the Finn and Sergio Perez is around five seconds.
Perez heading for the podium
14:29 , Dan Austin
LAP 16/57: Sergio Perez is in scintillating form at Losail right now and has very comfortably overtaken Lando Norris into Turn 1 to move up to fourth.
He is now only a couple of seconds behind Fernando Alonso in third and will likely overtake the Alpine within a lap or two.
Bottas finally making progress
14:28 , Dan Austin
LAP 15/57: Bottas is finally past Carloz Sainz in the Ferrari, moving to the inside on the pit straight and using the overspeed given to him by DRS to make the move stick.
James Allison is on the radio to tell him: “Great job Valtteri, you’re fighting for third place.”
Verstappen can’t match Hamilton
14:26 , Dan Austin
LAP 14/57: The gap between Hamilton and Verstappen is now up to 6.9s with Hamilton lapping faster by a few tenths on every lap now.
Slo-mo footage appears to show Verstappen does have very slight front wing damage, which could be costing him crucial time.
Hamilton doing a very good job right now.
Perez up to fifth
14:24 , Dan Austin
LAP 13/57: Sergio Perez is the next man to breeze past Gasly on the long pit straight and now has Norris in his sights as he moves up to fifth.
Only the McLaren man and Fernando Alonso in the Alpine separate him from team-mate Max Verstappen now. Perez in great form, here.
Norris passes Gasly
14:23 , Dan Austin
LAP 12/57: Lando Norris is up to fourth place in McLaren after using DRS to overtake Pierre Gasly down into Turn 1.
That is undoubtedly the way to make moves at this circuit, with a good exit from the final corner combined with DRS looking pretty unstoppable right now.
First soft tyre runners stopping
14:22 , Dan Austin
LAP 11:57: Yuki Tsunoda and Kimi Raikkonen are the first drivers into the pits, ditching their soft tyres for mediums as they enter a longer stint on a two-stop strategy.
The medium runners, including the likes of Hamilton, Verstappen, and Perez, should be out until lap 20 at least.
Hamilton the fastest man on track
14:20 , Dan Austin
LAP 10/57: Lewis Hamilton sets the fastest lap of the race so far and increases the margin to Max Verstappen behind to 5.3s.
The pair are over two seconds per lap faster than anybody else right now and are already more than a pit stop ahead of the likes of Bottas.
The gap from Verstappen to Alonso in third is 15s.
Wolff frustrated with Bottas
14:18 , Dan Austin
LAP 9/57: “Come on Valtteri, get these cars” bellows a clearly worried Toto Wolff on the team radio as the Finn languishes down the order while Verstappen and Perez shows frightening pace.
Bottas responds by passing Tsunoda but he needs to be doing so much more than this.
Verstappen worried about damage
14:17 , Dan Austin
LAP 8/57: Perez makes it past Sainz with DRS into Turn 1 but Max Verstappen is worried about damage.
He has been told to stay off the kerbs by his race engineer due to possible front-wing end-plate damage, which the team won’t want to exacerbate.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez absolutely flying
14:16 , Dan Austin
LAP 7/57: Verstappen is now over five seconds of Alonso already less than two full laps after overtaking the Alpine.
He is sitting around four seconds behind Hamilton in first.
Sergio Perez, meanwhile, is up to 8th after starting 11th and is putting big pressure on Carlos Sainz ahead. He could come into play and help Verstappen out if he can keep this pace up.
Verstappen up to second
14:13 , Dan Austin
LAP 5/57: Verstappen now makes mincemeat of Alonso with the power of DRS down into Turn 1 and the Spaniard doesn’t fight the overtake too much at all.
In the space of five laps the context of the race now feels entirely different. With Bottas down in 11th, Hamilton has no rear-gunner to help him hold off Verstappen.
This is going to be fascinating.
Hamilton charging out front
14:11 , Dan Austin
LAP 4/57: Hamilton meanwhile is racing away out front, and has stretched the gap out over Alonso to over four seconds.
The Mercedes man needs to increase the margin further.
Verstappen up to third
14:10 , Dan Austin
LAP 4/57: What a start from Max Verstappen.
Pierre Gasly runs wide in the final corner and that allows Verstappen to move into third with the easiest overtake of his career.
Now only Fernando Alonso separates the Dutchman from Hamilton out front.
Verstappen wants Gasly to move
14:09 , Dan Austin
LAP 3/57: “Already a little bit stuck here” says Max Verstappen on the team radio as he finds himself in fourth behind Pierre Gasly.
He may well just be commenting on the narrowness of the track, but that could also be a thinly-veiled message to Alpha Tauri to shift Gasly out of the way.
Bottas and Vettel big losers so far
14:07 , Ben Burrows
LAP 1/57: Valtteri Bottas endured another atrocious start once again and has dropped form sixth to 11th behind Lance Stroll, with Sebastian Vettel in the other Aston Martin dropping all the way down to 17th from 10th.
Alonso and Verstappen make progress
14:06 , Dan Austin
LAP 1/57: Max Verstappen enjoys an electric start and make sup three places by passing Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris to make it up to P4!
Meanwhile Fernando Alonso dives down the inside of Pierre Gasly to take second place!
Lights out! The Qatar Grand prix is underway!
14:05 , Dan Austin
LAP 1/57: The race is underway and Lewis Hamilton has the lead out of Turn 1!
Drivers are on the formation lap
14:01 , Dan Austin
Mechanics and engineers are moving off the grid and the drivers are now rounding the circuit on the formation lap.
Lewis Hamilton will have the longest wait of all as he slots into pole position and waits for the other drivers to find their starting spots, all the way down to Nikita Mazepin in the Haas in 20th.
Overtaking could be difficult in Qatar
13:59 , Dan Austin
There are 16 corners around the Losail circuit but with most requiring the cars to travel at high speed, overtaking could be very difficult in Qatar, which is making its debut on the Formula 1 calendar.
There is one DRS zone on the long pit straight down into Turn 1, which will most likely represent the best opportunity for drivers to move up the order.
Making places up at the start will be crucial, so some drivers could be more willing to take a risk once the lights go out.
Marko scathing in attack on the FIA on the grid
13:54 , Dan Austin
Helmut Marko also launched a blistering attack on the FIA on the grid after they punished Max Verstappen for ignoring yellow flags in the final part of qualifying 90 minutes before the start of the race.
Marko told DAZN: “It’s ridiculous. You know the FIA can’t organize a proper marshalling system and they are hiding their incompetence on the shoulders of the driver. Unbelievable.”
Marko talking with Gasly and Tost
13:53 , Dan Austin
The had of Red Bull’s young driver programme Dr. Helmut Marko has been talking with sister team Alpha Tauri’s team principal Franz Tost and front row started Pierre Gasly on the grid ahead of lights out.
Gasly could help out Max Verstappen enormously by causing Lewis Hamilton problems into Turn 1, but Alpha Tauri need to manage their own race too.
Hamilton has the threat of a Red Bull sister car directly behind him, and an enormously racey former rival in Fernando Alonso starting from third. The start could be electric.
Lando Norris weighs up chances ahead of race start
13:48 , Dan Austin
Lando Norris has been telling Damon Hill and Jenson Button about his strategy, with ten minutes to go until lights out at Losail.
“We’re thinking about Gasly and Fernando, the guys we’re really racing today” the McLaren driver said. “I’ll have one eye on behind. Carlos has a nice starting position on the clean side of the grid. Already some drivers were struggling [physically] yesterday, and because of the circuit and temperature it will be hard today.”
Fernando Alonso talks up chances into Turn 1
13:39 , Dan Austin
Fernando Alonso has been talking to Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix, where he will start third for the first time since 2013 with Ferrari.
“We were happy with P5, but P3 is another 60 metres ahead,” the Spaniard said. “Lewis will start with the medium tyre, Gasly on the wrong side, we’ll see. It’s a lovely track, long corners, you can lean on the car and the tyres. Action is going to be difficult to follow.”
Verstappen can seriously challenge if he clears Bottas
13:28 , Dan Austin
That grid order switch could be absolutely crucial, as Max Verstappen now has a stronger chance of leap-frogging Valtteri Bottas off the start.
The Finn has struggled with race starts all season long but will be instructed by his Mercedes bosses that blocking Verstappen and helping Hamilton is his major responsibility this afternoon.
If Verstappen can clear Bottas into Turn 1, he will be able to attack the likes of Sainz and Norris ahead. With Norris, Gasly and Alonso due to stop earlier on the soft tyres while Verstappen will be using the mediums, he could still challenge Hamilton if Bottas can’t help his team-mate out.
Bottas and Sainz grid order swapped
13:23 , Dan Austin
Valtteri Bottas will now start sixth with Carlos Sainz in fifth after a late change to the final grid order from the FIA.
The provisional order had the Finn ahead, but he will now line up directly ahead of Verstappen without the buffer of the Ferrari in between. The final grid order for the top ten is:
How Sergio Pérez could come into play
13:21 , Dan Austin
Another significant disadvantage Verstappen has is that team-mate Sergio Pérez starts a lowly eleventh after failing to progress into Q3 during yesterday’s qualifying session.
The Mexican won’t be able to prevent the Mercedes adopting a pincer strategy on his 24-year-old team-mate, where each of Hamilton and Bottas takes a different strategy with Verstappen unable to cover off both on his own.
What could benefit Pérez, and in turn Verstappen, is the fact that the former Racing Point driver starts on the medium tyres. If he can overtake the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda ahead, Pérez could run very long on those mediums and try to disrupt the Mercedes ahead after they pit.
Bottas must hold-off Verstappen for Hamilton
13:17 , Dan Austin
Valtteri Bottas’ objective at Losail this afternoon is to keep Max Verstappen behind him so that the Dutchman can’t progress up the order and eventually challenge Lewis Hamilton.
An hour ago Bottas was set to start third, a place behind the Red Bull man, but their respective penalties mean Bottas is now at P5 and Verstappen P7.
Carlos Sainz sits between them and Verstappen will need to dispatch the Spaniard as soon as possible so he can face-off with Bottas, who has struggled consistently with his starts throughout the entire season.
Tyres could help Gasly and Alonso attack Hamilton at the start
13:07 , Dan Austin
The promotions for Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso mean that Lewis Hamilton will be forced to defend from two cars starting on the soft tyres into Turn 1.
The Mercedes man will begin the race on the mediums, the preferable option in the long-run, but the softs will likely be faster off the line. If Gasly or Alonso can combine that small advantage with lightening quick reactions then they could the seven-time world champion significant problems.
Just over fifty minutes to go until lights out, and this could be a stellar start.
Alonso willing to take ‘risks’ in Turn 1 against Hamilton
12:56 , Dan Austin
Fernando Alonso spoke to Sky Sports F1 just before the Verstappen and Bottas penalties were announced, and discussed the possibility of starting third on the clean start of the track, which will now be the case.
“That would be welcome. I have nothing to lose and the people in front of me they have a lot to lose, so I can take risks.”
Alonso has made the most overtakes of any driver so far this season and returned to the sport with Alpine after a two-year sabbatical in order to win races and stand on the podium, with this afternoon’s Grand Prix now representing his best chance of doing so since his last win with Ferrari in 2013.
The 40-year-old did take time to criticise the delay in awarding the penalties, though. He said: “I feel for the people at home that we qualified yesterday at 5pm, and today at 2pm we still don’t have answers. This is the only sport where that happens. Do it at 6pm yesterday so everyone, especially those at home, can follow the sport properly.”
New grid order after Verstappen and Bottas penalties
12:48 , Dan Austin
The grid order has been shaken up by those reprimands for Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas, leaving the start looking like this:
Hamilton reacts to Verstappen penalty
12:47 , Dan Austin
Lewis Hamilton has reacted to the stewards’ decision to penalise Max Verstappen with a five-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags.
“My only reaction is that consistency is key,” the seven-time world champion said. “In Austria I got a three-place penalty for a flag I didn’t see. It’s good that they stick to the book. We’ve just got to focus on my job today.”
Sainz escapes penalty
12:45 , Dan Austin
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz will start from P6 after he escaped a grid penalty despite being under investigation for the same offence as Valtteri Bottas.
The 27-year-old qualified seventh but will move up thanks to the penalty for Verstappen. The Spaniard lifted off the accelerator before the finish line under the yellow flags yesterday, which is why he avoided punishment.
Horner furious with Verstappen penalty
12:42 , Dan Austin
Red Bull team principal is dumbfounded and seething about Max Verstappen’s late grid penalty at Losail.
“We’re really struggling to understand it,” he told Sky Sports F1. “It looks like a complete balls-up. Unfortunately there’s a yellow flag and Max just didn’t see it. I think it’s just a road marshal that has stuck a flag out, he’s not been instructed to by the FIA and they need to have control of their marshals. We’re not starting P7 at a track you can’t overtake at, that’s massive for the championship.”
Gasly and Alonso have massive role to play off the start
12:39 , Dan Austin
The penalties for Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas means that Pierre Gasly is promoted to P2 in his Alpha Tauri, while Fernando Alonso will start third for Alpine.
This presents a wild different challenge for Lewis Hamilton on pole. Yes, neither of those cars are as fast as the Mercedes or Red Bull, but Gasly and Alonso are two drivers who will smell a shot at glory and have precious little to lose.
The Frenchman and the Spaniard are great wheel-to-wheel racers and this will be far from an easy start for the seven-time world champion.
Bottas given three-place penalty too
12:37 , Dan Austin
Valtteri Bottas has also been given a penalty before the start of the race, hut the Finn’s is for three rather than five places.
The difference is that Bottas’ offence came during a period where a single yellow flag was waving, while for Verstappen there were double flags.
This massively affects the title race.
Verstappen given grid penalty!
12:34 , Dan Austin
Max Verstappen has been given a five-place grid penalty by the stewards in Qatar!
Verstappen still awaiting penalty decision
12:31 , Dan Austin
A reminder that the stewards still haven’t revealed whether Max Verstappen will be given a grid penalty before this afternoon’s Qatar Grand Prix gets underway in 90 minutes.
The Dutchman set his best Q3 time at the end of yesterday’s session, despite double-yellow flags being waved due to Pierre Gasly’s puncture in the Alpha Tauri.
Failing to respect double yellow flags often results in a five-place grid penalty.
Mercedes and Red Bull rivalry bitterness increases
12:23 , Dan Austin
Max Verstappen’s overly aggressive defence against Lewis Hamilton at Interlagos last weekend, and the lack of punishment following a right to review hearing with the FIA in Qatar this week, has hugely increased the tension between the Mercedes and Red Bull teams and respective team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner.
“We wanted to trigger a discussion around it because it will probably be a theme in the next few races,” Wolff said on the hearing itself. “We didn’t really think it would go any further. You fight for every single point, we don’t expect to gain anything to be honest, from the right of review, it is more about the principle and philosophy.” But Horner said, “(It is) Obviously the right decision as it would open Pandora’s Box.”
On his feeling about Wolff, Horner was emphatic: “There is no relationship. There is competition,” he said.
“We have worked hard to get into this position, this is the first time they have been challenged and it is interesting to see how people react when they are challenged – it is by far the most politically that we have been involved with in the sport. I don’t need to go to dinner with Toto, I don’t need to kiss his a**e or anything like that.”
Hamilton suffered stomach issues during qualifying
12:10 , Dan Austin
Lewis Hamilton was faster than Max Verstappen by almost half a second at Losail yesterday afternoon, and managed to build the gap despite suffering from stomach cramps throughout the session.
“On Friday and Saturday I wasn’t feeling well,” Hamilton revealed to Sky Sports F1. “I really struggled throughout practice. I was here until midnight working with the engineers. Found a lot of areas I can improve, made some changes for P3 and carried it through to qualifying.
“That last lap was beautiful, really sweet, this track is amazing to drive, it felt good. Stomach ache, from Wednesday, but felt fantastic today and slept really well. It’s such a fast circuit, it’s not the easiest to follow, but it’s not massively degrading on the tyres.”
Gasly and Alonso impressing again
12:00 , Dan Austin
Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso enjoyed strong performances in qualifying yesterday which give thme great starting positions on this afternoon’s grid at Losail.
The Alpha Tauri has looked quick all day long and Gasly put it on the second row alongside Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes, while Alonso took the Alpine up to fifth with an excellent lap at the end of the session.
The pair started alongside one another last at Turkey in October and made contact into the first corner, with the Spaniard spinning to the back of the pack and the Frenchman receiving a five-second time penalty from the stewards.
Both drivers have received plaudits throughout the season, with Gasly stepping up to a level which suggests he could win races in a faster car, while Alonso is delivering the kind of consistently impressive drives that plenty doubted he capable of after a two-year sabbatical from the sport.
F1 drivers unsure of fair racing rules after Verstappen escapes Brazil punishment
11:47 , Dan Austin
Drivers from up and down the Formula 1 grid have been telling reporters in Qatar that they no longer understand where the line between fair and unfair racing is drawn after Max Verstappen escaped punishment for driving Lewis Hamilton off the road at Interlagos last weekend.
A drivers’ meeting took place at Qatar on Friday with FIA Race Director Michael Masi, after which Verstappen declared that the boundaries were “pretty clear” But Hamilton, and pretty much every other driver who gave their thoughts publicly, vehemently disagreed.
“No. It is not clear,” Hamilton said. “Every driver was asking for clarity but it wasn’t very clear. It is still not clear what the limits of the track are. It is clearly not the white line any more when overtaking so we just go for it. We just ask for consistency so if it is the same for the last race for us in those scenarios then it is fine.”
Meanwhile, Williams man and leader of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association George Russell said: “I do appreciate you need to judge every single case [individually] but for me [Verstappen forcing Hamilton wide at Brazil] was not even close to the line of what went on, it was well beyond the line. And if that had been the last lap of the race, in my opinion it would have been a slam-dunk penalty for Max.”
Carlos Sainz of Ferrari concurred, adding: “I agree with George. It looks like over the winter there will be some big conversations about how we go racing as a sport. If the car on the inside should leave space on the outside in any case or not.”
Hamilton will continue with LGBTQIA+ helmet
11:36 , Dan Austin
Lewis Hamilton will continue running his rainbow helmet design in support of LGBTQIA+ rights at future Formula 1 races, after he debuted it in Friday practice at Qatar this week.
F11 has been questioned for organising new events in the Gulf nation and its neighbour Saudi Arabia, with human rights organisations including Amnesty International among those criticising the decision.
Explaining the reasoning behind his new lid, Hamilton told Autosport: “On the back it says, ‘we stand together’ and ‘love is love’, and it’s important for me to represent that community here as I know there are several situations which aren’t perfect and need to be highlighted. But I hope that someone reaches out and I would love to know what is happening here and what they’re doing to help support that community more – the LGBTQ+ community. I wait to hear.”
Verstappen sweats on stewards' decision
11:28 , Dan Austin
Three drivers were called to face the stewards in Qatar this morning after allegedly failing to respect yellow flags during the final portion of yesterday’s qualifying session.
Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly took much kerb on his final flying lap, breaking his front wing and causing to rip away from the chassis, leading to a puncture of the front right tyre. Carlos Sainz, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen are all accused of failing to slow down under yellow flag conditions in the aftermath,
Sainz and Bottas’ infractions occurred during the single yellow flag period, while Verstappen’s misdemeanour is potentially more serious having come under double yellow conditions.
If found guilty, Verstappen would face a grid penalty, potentially giving pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton a huge championship advantage.
F1 Qatar Grand Prix
11:15 , Ben Burrows
Follow all the action from the Qatar Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton starts on pole ahead of Max Verstappen as the Formula One season approaches a thrilling climax.
In search of a record-breaking eighth world championship, Hamilton trails Verstappen by 14 points in the drivers’ standings with just three races remaining of the season.
However, after his stunning victory in Brazil, where Hamilton came from tenth on the grid to take victory, the momentum is firmly with the Mercedes driver.
He followed up that performance with a dominant display in qualifying on Saturday, finishing four-tenths quicker than his title rival to take pole.
Overtaking is expected to be tricky on the Losail circuit, with teams likely to take a one-stop strategy, meaning there will be more pressure than ever on the approach into turn one.
Verstappen escaped punishment after appearing to run Hamilton off the track in Brazil and the Briton admitted there was still a lack of clarity over the incident
Follow all the latest throughout the afternoon.